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October 21, 2010

Photo blog: Reducing Maternal Mortality in Senegal

Dominic Chavez is a Boston-based freelance photojournalist, who formerly worked at The Boston Globe, specializing in global health issues. In the last year, the Ministerial Leadership Initiative has supported Chavez and writer John Donnelly's travel to the five countries that work with MLI: Nepal, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mali, and Ethiopia. In this second of five segments, one from each country, Donnelly interviewed Chavez about the images below. What follows are his perspectives on his assignment in Senegal, which focused in part on the Ministry of Health’s efforts to reduce maternal mortality:

"Senegal was the first country that we started to document, so it was the introduction to the kind of issues at hand. It was the country where I heard for the first time that almost 350,000 women die around the world every year in child birth. A woman dies almost every minute. So we wanted to witness the difficulties first hand."


"In this first photograph, I was drawn to this teeny-weeny, brand-new baby. I just couldn’t believe how small this child was. I was trying to take a picture that had some tension, some entry points, some exit points, and the baby is really the center of the photo."


"I was just responding to the way she was talking to you in an interview. I liked the way the light was falling on her face. We were in the recovery room with her. She had lost her baby to a miscarriage that same day. She seemed like she was dealing with it. There is something in all this work, even in the worst-case scenario, the thing that sticks with me most was she was grateful to be alive, and she didn’t have the victim mentality. There was a great sense of self-respect and understanding these are the hardships that women face in these countries. If anything, I admire their strength."


"I’m photographing him in his office in Dakar. Dr. Daff was one of the most impressive leaders in the Health Ministry. He came across as having the ability to listen as well as to lead. Those are the qualities I liked about him."


"This was a really interesting dynamic of events where we went to this health care center two hours outside of Dakar to show the difficulties that heatlh centers were facing far out of the city. In this case, a woman arrived in a taxi, the baby had already been delivered, she was bleeding still after the delivery, and the nurse was trying to help remove the placenta, and trying to assist this woman. The intensity of this nurse comes through here. Her eyes say a lot about how difficult her job is and how dangerous it is for women. In the end, the woman was fine. But if she hadn’t gotten to the health center, she would have continued to bleed, and could have lost her life."



"This is just a fun, happy picture, at sunset. There were probably 65 women out there all exercising. This guy was leading them on the beach in one part of Dakar, right next to the university. It was a nice moment of women taking care of themselves."


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